Obesity, a great danger for all!

As I shared with you in my bio I have freedom to write about anything and everything which interests me. If you have read any of my articles you know that business, finance, faith, and the health of our environment are some areas that interest and concern me. I also shared with you, the readers, that if there is something that interests you, and I’m made aware of it, I would investigate and if possible write on the subject.

This morning a friend called and asked if I would consider doing a piece on obesity, specifically, obesity in the Mountain State because he sees it as a very important health, as well as economic issue.

And in checking out statistics, what I found confirmed what most of us already know. When it comes to negative numbers, West Virginia has a habit of being ranked near the top.

For example, West Virginia ranked in the top five in tobacco use among all age groups, was ranked in the top six in ATV deaths from 1982 through 2001, and in an article out of Gov. Manchin’s office on May 25, 2007 it was reported that some estimates suggested that West Virginia could rank number one in cancer deaths for that year.

And, on the matter of obesity, again West Virginia is near the top of the heap ranking second only to Mississippi with 30.6% of our population considered obese. But what is even worse and doesn’t bode well for the future is the fact that the Mountain State is in a virtual tie for number one with Kentucky when it comes to childhood obesity.

When we say obese, we’re not talking about a few pounds. We’re not speaking about that roll around our middle, or those love handles which seem impossible to get rid of. No, obesity is a term used to describe body weight that is much greater than what is considered healthy. If you are obese, you have a much higher amount of body fat than lean muscle mass.

Adults with a body mass index (a statistical measure of the weight of a person scaled according to height) over 30 are considered obese, and anyone more than 100 pounds overweight or with a BMI greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese.

West Virginia isn’t alone. Rates of obesity are climbing almost everywhere in our nation with the percentage of children who are overweight having doubled in the last 20 years, and the percentage of adolescents who are obese having tripled in that same period.

Obesity is a significant health threat. The extra weight puts unusual stress on all parts of the body . It raises your risk of diabetes , stroke , heart disease , kidney disease, and gallbladder disease. Conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol which were once thought to mainly affect adults, are often seen in children who are obese. Obesity may also increase the risk for some types of cancer. Persons who are obese are more likely to develop osteoarthritis and sleep apnea.

Although there are genetic and hormonal influences on body weight, ultimately excess weight is a result of an imbalance of calories consumed versus calories burned through physical activity. If you consume more calories than you expend through exercise and daily activities, you gain weight. Your body stores calories that you don’t need for energy as fat.

I believe it takes two things if you want to lose weigh and begin enjoying a healthier life. First of all it takes desire! Like an alcoholic or drug abuser, you have to want to change in order to achieve change. And, secondly, a person needs to learn patience! You didn’t get in the physical condition your in overnight and change won’t come overnight. The following portion of this article has been gleaned from excerpts of a piece that came from mayoclinic.com and, concerns about what it takes to begin the journey to a better life through better health.

Achieving a healthy weight is usually done through dietary changes, increased activity and behavior modification. Depending on your situation, your doctor may suggest prescription medication or weight-loss surgery to supplement these efforts.

Dietary changes such as adopting a new eating style that promotes weight loss must include lowering your total calorie intake. One way you can lower your calorie intake is by eating more plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without giving up taste or nutrition. Cutting back on calories is easier if you focus on limiting sugar and other refined carbohydrates and some types of fat.

Ask your doctor to help you determine your calorie goals to lose weight. He or she may recommend that you also work with a dietitian or a reputable weight-loss program.

Crash diets to reduce calories aren’t recommended because they can cut so many calories and nutrients that they lead to other health problems, such as vitamin deficiencies. Fasting isn’t the answer, either. Most of the weight you initially lose is from water, and it’s not good for your body to go without food for extended periods.

Very low calorie liquid diets are sometimes prescribed as an intervention for seriously obese people. These mainly liquid diets, such as Medifast or Optifast, provide about 800 calories a day — most adults consume roughly 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day. While people are usually able to lose weight on these very low calorie diets, most people regain the weight just as quickly when they stop following these diets.

Over-the-counter liquid meal replacements, such as Slim-Fast, also cut calories. These plans suggest that you replace one or two meals with their products — low-calorie shakes — then eat snacks of vegetables and fruits and a healthy balanced third meal that is low in fat and calories. This can be as effective as a traditional calorie-controlled diet.

Increased physical activity (cutting 250 calories from your daily diet) can help you lose about half a pound a week: 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat. But, add a 30-minute brisk walk four days a week and you can double your rate of weight loss.

The goal of exercise for weight loss is to burn more calories, although exercise offers many other benefits as well. How many calories you burn depends on the frequency, duration and intensity of your activities. One of the best ways to lose body fat is through steady aerobic exercise — such as walking — for more than 30 minutes most days of the week.

Even though regularly scheduled aerobic exercise is most efficient for losing fat, any extra movement helps burn calories. Lifestyle activities may be easier to fit into your day. Think about ways you can increase your physical activity throughout the day. For example, make several trips up and down stairs instead of using the elevator, or park at the far end of the lot.

If you’re obese, particularly if you’re unfit and have health problems, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

To implement behavior modification (to lose weight and keep it off) you need to make changes in your lifestyle. But there’s more to changing your lifestyle than choosing different foods and putting more activity into your day. It also involves changing your approach to eating and activity, which means changing how you think, feel and act. A behavior modification program — led by a psychologist, therapist or other trained professional — can help you make these lifestyle changes.

Behavior modification programs may include examining your current habits to find out what factors or situations may have contributed to your excess weight. Exploring your current eating and exercise habits gives you a place to start when changing your behaviors.

Once you understand which habits are undermining your weight-loss efforts, you can take steps to create a new, healthier lifestyle. These tips can help: Have a plan; work out a strategy that will gradually change your habits and attitudes; consider how often and how long you will exercise; determine a realistic eating plan that includes plenty of water, fruits and vegetables; write it down and choose a start date; and set realistic goals. Weight-loss goals can be process goals, such as exercising regularly, or outcome goals, such as losing 20 pounds. Make sure process goals are realistic, specific and measurable. For example, you’ll walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. For outcome goals, aim to lose weight at a safe pace of 1 or 2 pounds a week. Losing weight more rapidly means losing water weight or muscle tissue, rather than fat.

Avoid food triggers. Distract yourself from your desire to eat with something positive, such as calling a friend. Practice saying no to unhealthy foods and big portions. Eat when you’re actually hungry — not when the clock says it’s time to eat. Keep a record. Keep a food and activity diary, so you can reinforce good habits and discover any behaviors that you may need to improve. Be sure to track other important health parameters such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall fitness.

My desire in writing this article is the same as that of my friend who contacted me - to make everyone aware that obesity is indeed a very serious social problem in our state and nation, but it isn’t something that is insurmountable. With education, a strong desire and the proper approach by individuals and authorities West Virginia residents can become smaller, more healthy and our state can move off the summit of this one appalling statistic that threatens so many of our citizens.

I thank Dale McDaniel for bringing his concern to my attention.